Can I have two pickets to Tittsburgh, please?

Victoria’s Secret to Keep Heating Up the Networks
NEW YORK (Reuters) – It is the kind of ratings battle that could only take place on American television: the finale of “The Bachelor” versus the second annual televised “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” — or, to put it another way, true love versus skimpy underwear.
In some households there may be a battle for the remote. At network CBS, it was a fight to find a time slot when it realized that rival ABC was presenting the last chapter of “The Bachelor” from 9 to 11 p.m. on Wednesday when it had planned to reveal Victoria’s risque secrets starting at 10 p.m.
The Viacom Inc. -owned network, which has come under fire from women’s groups and family values proponents, yanked the program from its 10 p.m. slot and in favor of the 8 p.m. slot, prime-time for mom, dad and the kids to watch TV.
That idea didn’t last long and the program now struts down the runway at 9 p.m. competing against the start of “The Bachelor” and NBC’s “The West Wing,” which contains neither nudity nor much romance, mostly just politics. NBC is owned by General Electric Co.
Victoria’s Secret, a unit of Columbus, Ohio-based Limited Brands Inc., has spent $7 million to produce the show, operating on the theory that audiences can never tire of gorgeous women stalking around in high heels and scanty lingerie.
The show was taped last Thursday in New York City’s 69th Regiment Armory before a crowd of celebrities, investors and paparazzi, and it reaped immediate attention after anti-fur protesters jumped on the runway to heckle Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, who has a contract with a mink company.
Amid the confusion, some observers wondered if the interruption was actually a planned part of the production but Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek rebuffed the suggestion, saying that part will not be shown.
Last year, the first time the show was televised, it drew 12.4 million viewers to Walt Disney Co.’s ABC network. It also drew the ire of some feminist and media watchdog groups, who considered the material either denigrating to women or too risque for network TV. The Federal Communication Commission received hundreds of complaints.
But Razek said the show meets broadcast standards.
“The level of exposure is controlled by standards and practices at the network. It’s not something that we do, it’s CBS’ domain. And I really thought last year’s show was very modest, particularly the show that got on TV.”
He added that this year’s show was just as restrained.
“There was no nudity, no bare breasts, nothing to have a significant concern about.”
The TV special is hosted by German model Heidi Klum and singer Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray, and will feature musical performances by Destiny’s Child, Marc Anthony and Phil Collins. Victoria’s Secret has also promised red carpet interviews, model profiles and behind-the-scenes segments.
The most extravagant ensemble of the night on the show was the $10 million “Star of Victoria” bra and panty ensemble that features a 60-carat pear shaped diamond at the center of the bra. A rose and leaf pattern of rubies, emeralds and diamonds covers the rest of the bra and embellishes the waist of the panty, for a total weight of 168 carats.
With 2001 sales of $3.3 billion, the brand’s message of over-the-top glamour and femininity has certainly taken hold. Victoria’s Secret has grown to more than 1,000 lingerie stores, and the catalog has a circulation of 375 million, far exceeding the population of the United States.
Sharen Turney, chief executive of Victoria’s Secret’s direct selling arm, said the company plans to keep televising the show annually, and it is also in talks with CBS about possibly doing a swimwear show around February.
She said the company’s $7 million investment comes back five-fold in marketing value. That’s especially important as the company heads into the holiday season, a crucial selling period that specialty retailers are approaching with caution in the current economy.
Victoria’s Secret does 35 percent of its business in the fourth quarter, which includes the holidays.